Thursday 27 December 2012

2012 - Been There, Ran That, You're Doing What?

Ah, December!  That time of year when we look back and pretend that the previous 12 months formed some kind of continuous experience that will magically end, be packaged up, and replaced by another year-long block.  Life, if we're lucky, lasts quite a long time, so like any good long run, we break it into manageable pieces, taking and planning one step at a time.  Every now and then, when things are going well, it's possible to take a step outside of this artificial time line and see that everything is connected, all our future somehow dependent on the miles that have come before.  We transcend the map, the GPS, and the strange taste caused by too many gels, and everything somehow fits into the great vision.  That's usually about the time I trip over a tree root.

How did 2012 fit into the progression that is my grand plan of life and running?  Let's put on the hindsight goggles and have a look. I ended 2011 with two predictions for 2012.  Prediction 1: the dry weather we'd been enjoying could not possibly continue - rather unfortunately, I was right, and am now musing about downsizing to a houseboat before the house becomes a boat.  Prediction 2: a good early season could lead to a tilt at running the whole Cotswold Way during the summer - this never really made it onto the priority list.  2012 started as a busy racing year.  The first half of the year included 15 races of distances ranging from 1 to 34 miles.  I ran 100 race miles fewer than in 2011, due to the reduction in the number of marathons.  I also raced at a minute and a half per mile faster, again due in part to fewer marathons.  By adding ultras to the calendar, I had an incentive to boost my training miles, logging 50% more in 2012 ( ~1800 for the year).

Somehow, the second half of the year seemed to include all of the "A" races for 2012.  That hadn't been the plan, it's just how the desire, energy, and ambition played out.  By mid-July, every race that had a comparator was a "best" of some kind.  For standard distance races, I had picked up a new PB at 1mi, 5km, and half marathon.  For races I had done before, I picked up course bests, including the two ultras where I beat my equivalent 2011 marathon times as part of the ultras.  2012 was shaping up rather nicely.  I was successfully building on 2011, which had indeed been a "breakthrough" year.  Looking forward to the first "A" race, at Nairn, I started to get a little ambitious and before I knew it, I was targeting a sub 1:30 half (nearly made it!), my first 40+mi race, and a new marathon PB on one of the toughest road courses in the country (it's not actually that bad - just one tough hill towards the end).

All through the fun of racing, there was an undercurrent of trying to figure out how to make running more than just a hobby.  During the summer, we launched Cotswold Running as a venture to organise races and eventually other running-related experiences.  The enterprise started well, with an enjoyable event at Broadway Tower (according to those who slogged through the mud), and will continue into 2013 with other fun challenges on the cards.

Having stared back with the hindsight goggles on, 2012 looks like a year full of enormous change.  I was happily racing faster at all distances and  running further than ever before.  Working life headed in a completely different direction.  What was going on?  But, if we ignore the artificial barrier that is January 1st, the year is simply a bridge from what came before to what lies ahead.  The running achievements flowed nicely as a result of the base laid in 2011, and have set me up for a potentially exciting 2013.  April's Highland Fling is inked in as the spring "A" race, and a few other interesting races are finding their way onto the plan.  Career-wise, what appears from the outside to be a complete divergence from the past is really just another stepping stone along the way, building on years of varied experiences and leading to - well, we'll just have to see where it leads.

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